Vestibular syndrome: A change in internal spatial representation

The vestibular system contributes to a wide range of functions from reflexes to spatial representation. This paper reviews behavioral, perceptive, and cognitive data that highlight the role of changes in internal spatial representation on the vestibular syndrome. Firstly, we review how visual vertical perception and postural orientation depend on multiple reference frames and multisensory integration and how reference frames are selected according to the status of the peripheral vestibular system (i.e., unilateral or bilateral hyporeflexia), the environmental constraints (i.e., sensory cues), and the postural constraints (i.e., balance control). We show how changes in reference frames are able to modify vestibular lesion-induced postural and locomotor deficits and propose that fast changes in reference frame may be considered as fast-adaptive processes after vestibular loss. Secondly, we review data dealing with the influence of vestibular loss on higher levels of internal representation sustaining spatial orientation and navigation. Particular emphasis is placed on spatial performance according to task complexity (i.e., the required level of spatial knowledge) and to the sensory cues available to de. ne the position and orientation within the environment (i.e., real navigation in darkness or visual virtual navigation without any actual self-motion). We suggest that vestibular signals are necessary for other sensory cues to be properly integrated and that vestibular cues are involved in extrapersonal space representation. In this respect, vestibular-induced changes would be based on a dynamic mental representation of space that is continuously updated and that supports fast-adaptive processes. (c) 2008 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.


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